There was a time in my life when I was dealing with lots of recurring negative thoughts and emotions. It was so bad I would wake out of my sleep feeling anxious, sad and frustrated. It was the remnants of issues from my physical health journey and my situation at the time. Even though I spoke with some friends about my experiences and feelings, it didn’t seem like it helped enough until I went to a mental health therapist; someone who was able to, as objectively as they can, view my story and give some professional advice to help me move on and heal.
Situation Prior To Therapy
It began with my health journey dealing with lupus and at the time transitioning into dealing with end stage renal disease. It was quite the experience. I had just moved to a new place out of my home state and began noticing a variety of symptoms that I was not familiar with. I ended up going to a hospital that turned out to have some good staff, but a lot of questionable characters to where I felt the need to sleep with one eye open. My lack of trust in getting proper care was so deep which started my journey to researching each and every medicine I was told I was given. I ended up being drugged up and weak with so much medicine that it wasn’t until I was out of my home state hospital that I realized I was not bathed for the 2 weeks in the first hospital out of state. I just knew my skin was bruised up and looking like a desert that only gets 2 inches of rain a year, cracks and all. I had some family that came down to visit but was told by them that they were kicked out of the hotel they were staying at because a local basketball team was going to be there. They booked their plane tickets and bounced back to our home state.
Of course I was upset and angry about family leaving me behind considering my health status. One day after a treatment I was feeling a severe lack of support all around me and borderline helpless. When a cab came to pick me up to go back to the apartment all the emotional and physical pain I felt just came up to the surface and I started crying. It was so bad the cab driver was actually quite terrified for me and kept asking if I was ok. He did his best to make me feel better and I was grateful for it. I never cried that hard in my life. I had a second similar experience going to the hematologist (blood doctor). My body once again went into autopilot and I was crying so bad that my blood pressure was in the highs of 170s. They had to calm me down by doing breathwork and continuing to take my blood pressure until it went back down to normal. They asked where my family was. I told him they left. Shocked he asked, “THEY LEFT?!” and I replied, “Yes,”. So he asked for my original doctor’s phone number and they spoke on the phone about how to help me.
A few days later, still feeling helpless and not wanting to stay out of state anymore, I decided to pull on my inner strength and take the train back by myself in hopes to get better support and control over my health. I was looking forward to dealing with the doctors and staff that knew me and my condition. They were actually a bit more competent and wouldn’t get mad at me because they took my blood pressure, forgot the numbers and expected me to remember the reading while I’m trying to rest and heal like the out of state staff did. They were also more careful in administering medicine and I wouldn’t have to tell them to wash hands and use gloves, nor would I have to worry about pushing certain medicine too quickly into the I/V which could induce a comatose state or worse.
Traveling While Sick
I really wanted someone to travel back to my home state with me but it wasn’t going to happen. So I had to “brave up” and go it alone. To make matters worse, not only did I need a new cell phone at the time due to it not holding a charge enough to make an emergency call if needed but I felt like I was in a perpetual daze as if I was on the brink of consciousness. Looking back I barely have an idea how I got back. Yet, I did and I was EXHAUSTED and physically weak with dangerously low hemoglobin (blood count), swollen ankles, swollen legs, catheter in my chest carrying 2 heavy bags of important belongings (no-no for catheters), completely knocked out immune system and needing serious medical attention. One rude train worker was barely of any help when I simply asked him to help put my bag overhead. He had the biggest attitude like I asked him to run a marathon or something.
In addition to the stress of learning about my health condition at the time home life continued to be very stressful. Family that I lived with, (the ones who came to visit) who have known me since birth, whom I thought would’ve been more sympathetic for the situation that I was in with my health; almost dying (they dun seen me pass out during one of my first hemodialysis treatments, which can go super south real quick!), having issues with time, counting, etc., didn’t seem to have any empathy. It was as if I may have just as well been living with roommates who were in their own world. I didn’t feel much care and barely any love. What I did notice was a constant asking for money, going through my mail looking for any checks, cash, etc. Basic house responsibilities were not being taken care of with a threat of eviction every month due to lack of paying rent and no electricity. I also woke up to arguing and childishness daily. It was quite frustrating and I was angry. I just wanted to feel some form of care.
So, I was like, ‘alright, I know what this is.’…stress in the environment due to mental illness by those around me. My focus was on healing and getting better and such an environment was definitely not conducive to my goal.
Unfortunately, I did not have the financial means to leave the environment and my health did not allow me to work at the time as I was still quite weak. Also, putting money into that situation was like trying to pour water into a bucket with holes in it and expect it to fill up. I had to find ways to make it work for me. I had to rise up above all situations, including my own physical ailments and do what I had to do if I wanted to be in a better situation to heal and regain my strength.
One day I was speaking with one of my good friends from out of state on the phone. They’ve always been the good counselor type to many people and so they would always suggest certain ways to deal with the situation I was in. I was allowed to vent, cry and anything else I needed to get things off my chest. One day, they suggested that I see a therapist and coming from one who has studied psychology, I could see why. Many times it is best to have someone with a professional outlook to be able to help in another way.
My Experience With Mental Health Therapy
I decided to go see a therapist as a form of outside aid who can help me learn about and use certain means to get out of the situation. The mental health therapist would allow me to find ways to emotionally handle my situation as well as release the recurring negative thoughts from my experiences.
I have seen three separate therapists. Two provided me with the help I needed. One hooked me up with a counselor who had resources to help me out of the situation. The other was able to guide me in navigating the emotional aspect of my situation.
The first therapist I went to see, I told her my health story (where you can read more of here) as well as my situation. The entire time she seem uninterested. By the end of the session, she had mentioned that it was a wonder I “survived at all”. She wished me well and didn’t even reschedule for a follow up appointment which was strange for me. I have never had that happen to me before (last time I had therapy was in high school during my parents divorce). I suppose that was her way of saying that I should see someone else or she didn’t want to deal with me. It was almost another three months before I decided to try another therapist. In the meantime, I kept my connections with friends who were there emotionally for me.
The next therapist I saw worked with me a bit more, yet I didn’t feel very connected to her either. I still gave her a chance though. She kept referring to real basic textbook solutions and I just felt it didn’t help me. I will always remember the little strange faces she would make when I would share certain things with her and it was quite off-putting. She could’ve at least had a poker face or smile. She seemed she didn’t understand me and wasn’t receptive to my personality. It was as if very little effort was put into her work. Everything just seemed like a routine with her. Perhaps it was because the time of day we had our sessions was a bit later in the evening (she had her meal and I had my snacks and drink in my purse). Looking back she was probably burnt out by that time of day. Yet, she did do one good thing which was to refer me to one of the counselors that was connected to the same practice so I got easier access to means such as affordable housing and disability resources.
This lady was more cordial and really seemed to do her best to get to know me, my interests, my goals and worked around it. She allowed me to tell my story, share my frustrations, things that made me sad, mad, my aspirations, dreams, etc. Unlike the prior therapist, she appeared to show some sympathy and ask the right questions which allowed me to open up more. Interestingly, like the first woman, she, too, mentioned how I was lucky to survive and get home safely. In retrospect, those times allowed me to recognize certain aspects of myself that was preventing me from moving forward in my life since the illness. After a few discussions with some tears and a few laughs, I really was able to feel an emotional healing where I was able to move on. We even got a chance to discuss certain books and readings where I even bought some that she had recommended. I was more excited to see her, while the second one felt like I was going to finish an unpleasant chore (ain’t nobody got time for that!). She also gave me a referral to a local yoga studio which helped me to heal on another level. I share that experience here.
Looking back on my journey with all three I find that the last two were the most helpful in their own ways. The second therapist, while she wasn’t able to really help me on the emotional support level I needed, she had connections that were very useful and thank goodness for that. I also like to eat so being able to munch during our time was a plus. The last therapist had such a down to earth personality. She was also closer to my age so perhaps she was able to understand me more. Some older therapists may look at things based on what they learned years ago that may be outdated or may be suffering from burnout. The younger therapist most likely had fresh eyes and had a more hopeful outlook. She just had a more positive aura about her. Overall, it seems I needed regular therapy appointments with someone who had genuine healing vibes with a passion for their work.
I am no longer in therapy, as my overall needs have been addressed and those goals I had set were accomplished. Yet, I do know that if anything does come up, I can find someone who will be able to help me.
Lessons From My Experience
I’d like to take the time to thank all those who were instrumental in my healing; those who intentionally helped me and those who didn’t. I learned valuable lessons from both parties. One of the most important ones was being able to stand on my own no matter how tough and inconvenient life can get. I was always strong, but this experience taught me new levels of strength. I had to learn to let go of expectations that someone would do for me as I would do for them, such as looking out. There were a few times I had decided to express how I felt of their treatment and lack of empathy during the time I was very vulnerable just to finish up the release of those emotions. My feelings were constantly invalidated and the lies from their mouth kept coming. I had to stop expecting them to grow up, have integrity and apologize. I had to move on and keep in mind that I am who I am and I will continue to do my best in all things. I also learned that it is ok to ask for help. I think sometimes in today’s society we grow up thinking that we should do everything on our own, yet sometimes a situation will ensure you will learn that lesson.
Remember, if you feel you are in a situation where it seems like you can’t get out of or there is barely any hope, you can definitely do your best to look for professional help outside of your surroundings. Be sure to check local and state programs that may be of assistance. You’d be surprised what is available to you. Sometimes the first pick may not always work out and that’s ok! Keep pushing until you find the right one, yet be sure to give it some time to decide if the therapist you got is the right one for you.
Remember to stay active in your self care!